How can you tell your research story? Storytelling is an ancient art that still remains relevant today, it is the avenues available in the 21st century that have changed storytelling so vastly.
Before you start communicating your story, ask yourself who your desired audience is, and this will inform the avenues you choose depending on the nature the research end-users involvement. Who will use your research? How can you engage this audience to tell your story and capture their interest?
Browse the How to Engage resource by the university of Oxford to learn about engaging with different audiences
Next, you will need to consider the principles of good storytelling. You need to write a narrative which will connect the right audience with your research. So, what are the elements of a good story? A setting, some characters, a problem and a resolution. You want your reader to connect with the message you want to convey. Learn more by reading the short article 4 storytelling devices to enhance your research reports and presentations.
Consider: What is your hook? Why would someone want to engage with your research? What are the benefits? For example, can you communicate the impact by economic benefit (money saved or costs avoided), environmental impact, benefits to health and wellbeing, changes to policy, cultural changes?
By using storytelling as an effective communication tool you can engage your research end-users at crucial stages of your research. This can be timed to fall in line with specific deadlines and it brings your results to your audience as early as possible. Storytelling can be verbal, written or digital and it can include:
Technology used can include:
All these methods will increase knowledge, awareness and understanding of your research and ensure your research is told in a way that it can change attitudes and sway minds.
Refer to the Step by step guide to planning engagement activities [PDF, 41kB] by Wellcome Trust.
Consider: Can you get your stakeholders to become involved in your research, participate in activities, and share their own knowledge?
TIP: Learn from your peers - reach out to them and ask how they communicate their research stories. Then, when you start your own, keep track of what worked and what didn’t so you can tailor future narratives around successes.
Once you have identified your audience, use appropriate language to tell a compelling story to capture this target group in a way which is immediately understandable to them. Include a human element which they can connect with and tell your story through their eyes. In this way your research will be instantly relatable and your audience will be able to connect with your research rather than just process it.
Want more? Read further to discover how you can apply the art of storytelling to communicate your research:
Public engagement: A Practical Guide to Communicating with Non-Scientists by The Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Computer Human Interaction, or How to Write for Non-Specialist Audiences [PDF, 204kB] by university of Bristol.
Tips for HDR students and Early Career Researchers: 5 Tips for Communicating Your Research by Katazyna Falecka, History of Art Department at University College London.
Communicating scientific research by cinematographic storytelling: Storytelling in Research, published in Nature Biomedical Engineering.